7 Reasons for Adding Grapefruit to Your Morning Meal

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I used to have a boss who would walk around the office and hand out oranges to everyone as they walked to their desk. On the surface, it seems like a nice gesture, but I always had the sneaking suspicion they only did it so no one had an excuse to use a sick day. After all, oranges are packed with vitamin C. But you know what would have worked even better to keep us all healthy? Grapefruit. It turns out they're potentially even more nutrient-dense than their smaller, orange cousin.

Although grapefruit season is at its peak between May or June, the citrus can typically be found year round. So, if you're looking for a reason to squeeze the most benefits out of 'em, here are seven benefits of grapefruit to help do the trick. Keep reading for the nutritional low-down on why having grapefruit at breakfast (or throughout the day) is so beneficial, plus some ideas on how to enjoy it since they can be quite lip-puckering on their own.

What are the health benefits of grapefruit?

1. It's great for your immune system. Exhibit A of all that glorious nutrient density: grapefruits are a good source of vitamins A, C, and E—a trifecta that works together to keep the immune system up. (Specifically, one whole grapefruit has 77 mg of vitamin C—more than what you'd get in a small orange.) So you know those times of the year when everyone in your office seems to be sick? It's the perfect time to dish out some grapefruit to your fam and friends (à la my old boss).

2. Eating grapefruit regularly is linked to higher nutrient consumption. One study found that women who ate grapefruit had a higher intakes of vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, dietary fiber, and improved diet quality. "Grapefruit may provide a healthful option for adults striving to meet fruit recommendations," the study concludes. However, they weren't only eating grapefruit, so it's hard to tell how much the grapefruit made an impact on those overall levels. But the association itself is certainly promising.

3. It could help prevent diabetes. There's evidence that eating grapefruit—which is moderate on the glycemic index scale—can help keep insulin levels even, protecting against type 2 diabetes. "Greater consumption of blueberries, grapes, apples, bananas, and grapefruit were significantly associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes," reads one large 2013 study. "Our findings suggest that there is significant heterogeneity in the associations between individual fruits and risk of type 2 diabetes."

4. It could help keep promote cardiovascular health. There's evidence—at least in mice—showing that naringin (a flavonoid in grapefruit) can help prevent atherosclerosis, when plaque and cholesterol build up in your arteries.  Again, this study was conducted on animals, not humans; but grapefruit certainly could be worth adding to a heart-healthy lifestyle.

5. It's high in antioxidants. Grapefruit is also a good source of antioxidants, which help reduce inflammation and fight damage caused by free radicals in the body. Even grapefruit peels are high in antioxidants, so don't just enjoy the refreshing, vibrant meat and juice of the fruit; use the citrus peels as zest in various dishes, such as poultry or in baked goods, for even more benefits of grapefruit.

6. It keeps you hydrated. Grapefruits are 88 percent water (one whole fruit has 216 grams of the stuff!) making them a pretty stellar way to stay hydrated in addition to your regular S'well bottle habit. That said, keep in mind that while grapefruit juice is a popular breakfast beverage, it's more beneficial to the body to eat the fruit so you're also getting tons of gut-healthy fiber.

7. Grapefruits help keep bones strong. Grapefruit contains decent amounts of calcium and phosphorus, which both help keep bones and teeth strong; something that's especially important as you age.

Potential risks of eating grapefruit

Okay, so it's pretty obvious that eating grapefruit on the reg is hugely beneficial to the body. However, there's a catch. It's not adequately suited for everyone. Here's what to know about whether or not you should avoid eating grapefruit on a regular basis. Plus, what you can do to safely it consume it and reap its health benefits. 

First and foremost, it's extremely important to note that grapefruit and medications can interact with one another; but not all. Grapefruit can interfere with an enzyme that metabolizes a wide variety of drugs, allowing more of the drug to make its way into the bloodstream and increasing the risk of side effects and even overdose. This isn't a niche issue; a 2012 study found that 85 medications ranging from OTC antihistamines to prescription blood pressure medications could be affected by grapefruit. "Taking one tablet with a glass of grapefruit juice is like taking five tablets with water," a pharmacologist told NPR in 2012.

This is not to make you overly concerned about eating grapefruit. But folks who regularly eat the fruit should definitely raise it with their doctor any time they're prescribed medication to ensure that the citrus won't cause a potentially dangerous interaction. Plus, if you tend to suffer from heartburn, you may want to avoid eating citrus on an empty stomach whenever possible, as the high acid content can disrupt your digestion and potentially result in a sour stomach (literally).

How to eat grapefruit

Besides just eating it? Well, let me count some of the delicious ways to incorporate more of this tasty citrus into your daily routine.

1. Broiled, with a little honey. Grapefruit is delicious and refreshing as-is, but registered dietitian Tracy Lockwood-Beckerman, and host of Well+Good's YouTube series You Vs. Food, likes hers broiled with a little honey on top.  She pops the grapefruit in the broiler with a bit of natural sweetener sprinkled on top for two minutes until it's caramelized, then tops it with Manuka honey before digging in. Bonus: the vitamin C-Manuka combo is like an immunity one-two punch.

2. With pancakes. Another way to reap grapefruit's sweet rewards is by incorporating the fruit (specifically its juice) into your favorite pancake recipe. Much like oranges (zest and juice) are used in the batter of many baked good recipes, the grapefruit serves a similar purpose, and helps lighten and brighten the flavors of homemade pancakes (or just about any other baked good, for that matter). Bonus points: Be sure to zest the peel on top too for extra citrus flavor and antioxidants.

3. Sip as a juice. While eating grapefruit in its whole form is the best way to get all its nutrients—especially the fiber in grapefruit—its juice still has potassium, magnesium, and vitamin C (and is hydrating, too). And if you find that straight grapefruit juice on its own is a bit too lip-puckering for your taste, you can always dilute it with a bit of water to help make it more palatable for your buds.

Incorporating grapefruit into your diet will help keep your immune system up, lower inflammation, and stay hydrated. Clearly oranges aren't the only citrus full of body-boosting benefits. On that note, here are other fruits that will help keep you hydrated. Plus, how to give your grapefruit a boozy twist (or mocktail).

A mood-boosting berry bark recipe with a secret grapefruit surprise:

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.
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  2. Carr, Anitra C, and Silvia Maggini. “Vitamin C and Immune Function.” Nutrients vol. 9,11 1211. 3 Nov. 2017, doi:10.3390/nu9111211
  3. Moriguchi, S, and M Muraga. “Vitamin E and immunity.” Vitamins and hormones vol. 59 (2000): 305-36. doi:10.1016/s0083-6729(00)59011-6
  4. Murphy, Mary M et al. “Consumption of grapefruit is associated with higher nutrient intakes and diet quality among adults, and more favorable anthropometrics in women, NHANES 2003-2008.” Food & nutrition research vol. 58 10.3402/fnr.v58.22179. 8 May. 2014, doi:10.3402/fnr.v58.22179
  5. Muraki, Isao et al. “Fruit consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: results from three prospective longitudinal cohort studies.” BMJ (Clinical research ed.) vol. 347 f5001. 28 Aug. 2013, doi:10.1136/bmj.f5001
  6. Chanet, Audrey et al. “Naringin, the major grapefruit flavonoid, specifically affects atherosclerosis development in diet-induced hypercholesterolemia in mice.” The Journal of nutritional biochemistry vol. 23,5 (2012): 469-77. doi:10.1016/j.jnutbio.2011.02.001
  7. Castro-Vazquez, Lucia et al. “Bioactive Flavonoids, Antioxidant Behaviour, and Cytoprotective Effects of Dried Grapefruit Peels (Citrus paradisi Macf.).” Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity vol. 2016 (2016): 8915729. doi:10.1155/2016/8915729
  8. Beto, Judith A. “The role of calcium in human aging.” Clinical nutrition research vol. 4,1 (2015): 1-8. doi:10.7762/cnr.2015.4.1.1
  9. Bailey, David G et al. “Grapefruit-medication interactions: forbidden fruit or avoidable consequences?.” CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l’Association medicale canadienne vol. 185,4 (2013): 309-16. doi:10.1503/cmaj.120951

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